A new year usually means new possibilities to look forward to, which is exactly what Manchester United fans will be hoping for after their turgid opening few months to the 2017/18 campaign under José Mourinho. With the Portuguese manager now relieved of his duties, and Ole Gunnar Solskjær enjoy his tenure so far at Man United, fans are now beginning to become optimistic once more.
Five wins from five matches for the Norwegian manager and life could not have gone more swimmingly for him. With aspirations of becoming the full-time coach in charge come the end of the season, Solskjær understand better than anyone the requirements from the Manchester United board in order to woo them over: qualify for the Champions League.
Throughout Mourinho’s tenure there were a lack of players taking responsibility for their performances on the pitch. Whether that was due to the negative tactics employed by the manager or the players shying away and distancing themselves from what was going on, it wasn’t to the standard that was expected of them at Manchester United. With Solskjær now at the helm, even in such a short period of time, he has given the confidence to the players who needed it most and told them to be free when crossing the white lines – go and express yourself for the world to see.
One player who came under constant criticism was Paul Pogba. The France World Cup-winning midfielder has endured a difficult time since re-joining the club in 2016, regularly being singled out for his performances, or lack of. While there has been so much going on surrounding the Frenchman, as well as his teammates, Pogba has kept his eye on the ball and has certainly shown what he is all about since Solskjær took charge.
While not all of Pogba’s good form can be put down the magic of the Norwegian manager, most certainly some aspect of it has been due to Solskjær’s ability to make players feel that they can go and be themselves on the pitch. While this is not Sunday League, Solskjær has made it clear that Manchester United are team that primarily think of their attacking output and their chance to get up the pitch – defending comes second. Unfortunately for Mourinho and his supporters, that never really clicked with him.
Another player that fans are waiting to burst into life is Alexis Sánchez. The Chile international, who was signed 12 months ago, has failed in replication his form at Arsenal so far, but there is hope among United supporters that, under new management, the best of Sánchez is yet to come. In his two appearances so far, he has found two crucial assists, making critics take notice of what could be on the horizon.
Sánchez is an archetypal Manchester United forward with his blistering pace and keen eye for goal. If Solskjær can work the Chilean into the first-team on a regular basis without disrupting the fluidity, Sánchez can certainly add another genuine source of goals to this Manchester United side. The former Gunner has always been a big match player and his goals in FA Cup final add to his legitimacy – as was seen in last year’s semi final in the same competition against Tottenham at Wembley.
The wide forward has the capabilities to hit the ground running in 2019 under Solskjær and a new manager should Manchester United go down a different path. If Sánchez is given the chance to play in a flexible front three – just as Solskjær has put out since taking over – then it shouldn’t be long before fans start to see the old player of times gone by rise once again.
There are plenty of reasons for Manchester United fans to be hopeful of 2019, even if there is no immediate success coming their way for the foreseeable future. Solskjær might surprise everyone and win the FA Cup or usurp Chelsea or Arsenal to a top four position, but the likelihood is that Man United are going through another rebuilding phase. Only this time, under a Red Devils legend, does it feel that they are heading down the right path.
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